The Austin Chronicle

Cap Metro: One Deadline at a Time

By Lee Nichols, May 22, 2009, News

Capital Metro finally beat a deadline on MetroRail. Back in March, when it announced that the launch of the Leander-to-Downtown commuter rail line would be delayed yet again, the transit agency said it would "report back to the community" by May 15. It actually managed to deliver its report May 13. The most notable feature: Cap Metro finally got smart and decided not to set a hard deadline this time out. "Capital Metro is committed to opening the MetroRail line when it is ready," said Cap Metro CEO Fred Gilliam in the announcement. "Rather than picking a new date now, we will assess progress during the final comprehensive operational testing phase and begin service when all remaining steps are complete."

Among other highlights: A new safety director has been hired by Veolia, the labor contractor that hires and trains the rail-car operators; grinding of rails, to remove rust that interferes with shunting signals, has been completed; installation of traffic-light pre-emption systems at crossings is still ongoing; all rail dispatchers have been trained and certified; and rail engineers have completed their first phase of certification. Still to come: Trains will run under full-service conditions to test the schedule, and engineers will be tested with training for "unforeseen challenges."

Gilliam said the next progress report will be delivered in June.

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